By Jo Murphy 09 Nov, 2017
Yes, ladies, I mean your inner sexist...

As much as we want to stick it to the men sticking things where they’re not welcome, there’s someone else we need to have words with first. We may be gripped by a fervent desire to right all sexist wrongs but, for this to be effective, it must be coupled with an equally fervent desire for personal change.

Enemy number one is in our heads.

So let’s take men out of the picture for a moment, which is hard to do when they run the world, I know. It’s much easier to project our pain onto them. But our projection doesn’t stop at the men.

Women are also hurting women.

Obviously we want a piece of the pie too, a taste of all that male privilege, so we shun our femininity in order to be taken seriously. We deride each other with fat shaming, slut shaming and judgement of whosoever dares to choose babies over work or work over babies.

All this bickering puts us on a back foot.

We’ve learnt to work against our womanhood rather than with it. And we’ve learnt to work against other women. Yes, #metoo may be a new rallying cry, but the bonds we’re forging are based on victimhood. Our entry point to relationship is shared experience of abuse and shared rejection of men. It’s reactive when what we really need is a proactive  point of entry founded on strength, not weakness.

We must bond through acceptance of women, not rejection of men.

If we were to bond in spite of man, not because of him, we could take action without needing a permission slip from patriarchy. Great, you say, but can a sisterhood really cut it since we associate being female with being weak? And who can blame us when we’ve been conditioned by a culture of male domination ? It’s hardly surprising that we try to separate ourselves from our femininity. Call it a survival tactic, if you like, but I wonder if we resent being female and that’s why we attack other women?

We reflect back to each other the weakness that makes us prey.

What’s more, other women represent the competition. It seems as though we’re still fighting for the best husband since we’re still fixated on Mr Right saving us . Women keep putting men on pedestals then competing for their attention. Meanwhile the boys enjoy their bromance and a little friendly competition. When you’re already on top the threat isn’t quite so threatening. Plus you’re more likely to stay on top when you backslap rather than backstab. But when you’re down here, where the women watch each other , shit gets nasty.

Mean Girls is our relational frame of reference.  

We judge each other for being too drunk, too exposed, too loud, too much of anything a woman shouldn’t be. Our judgements come almost involuntarily, as if they’re second nature. Second nurture, more like. We may deny it, but denial doesn’t take away the fact of our Mean Girls culture. And this goes hand in hand with Weinstein culture. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the things a woman endures in order to thrive in a patriarchal society. Nor can we deny that we’ve been complicit in this charade for centuries.

Women buy into an image of womanhood that belongs to men.

So let’s take it back.

The parameters of our identity have been set by patriarchy. Femininity has become something that limits rather than liberates us, and it will remain that way so long as we look at it through the male lens – so long as we measure each other’s worth according to f**kability and subservience. The feminine, we’ve been taught, exists to service the masculine. But surely it’s up to a woman to determine what femininity means to her ? She decides how it looks and feels. It belongs to her.

Femininity is a woman’s to define.

Why should anyone, man or woman, be threatened by this? If a man feels vulnerable when exposed to a woman’s sexuality, strength or success then we need to have a different conversation about the way we define masculinity. But if a woman feels vulnerable when exposed to the same it’s because she’s been taught to fear it. Our western way of life gives us an illusion of relative emancipation. But our western way of life also means we don’t have each other’s backs. We’ve been pitched against each other, which keeps us weak.

Say, for example, you know a woman who’s winning at work and motherhood. She’s screwing with your frame of self-reference. If you can’t put her in a clearly labelled box, according to patriarchy’s image of womanhood, you can’t label yourself either. And that’s the problem. We only seem to know who we are as women by identifying who we’re not. She’s a slut; I’m not. She’s fat; I’m not. We're lost without the point of comparison . And that’s why the mantle of victim resonates so deeply. We can all identify with victimhood, our collective disadvantage.

This is precisely what maintains the established power differentiation.

Wouldn’t you rather take action inspired by experience of empowerment and not the opposite? Wouldn’t you rather tap into shared strength and collective advantage? Our common ground can be our womanhood, not its violation.

Let’s come together as woman, not victims.  

Victim mentality doesn’t just make us the weaker sex; it’s the very thing that drives us to attack each other as overcompensation for our sense of powerlessness. We’ll never beat men so we might as well beat each other . It’s what pulls us down to the level patriarchy would have us stay at. We demand respect from men without respecting each other. We demand support from men without supporting each other.

Take a close friend of mine who’s chosen to stay at home and raise her children. The working mothers in her community can barely conceal their judgement… until they need last minute childcare and then they play nice. Or how about when cheaters get caught? All too often I’ve witnessed women get locked in a brawl and overlook the fact of it taking two to tango. The men escape unscathed, no responsibility taken.

Boys will be boys. But a woman should know better, right?

Well, yes, so long as we buy into this image of a woman as someone who receives, holds, pleasures and comforts. She does whatever we need her to do. Like taking responsibility for another’s transgression . And that’s why we resent each other because we resent the way our femininity is abused. It’s only natural that women aspire to become more masculine since it represents freedom and power and privilege.

We adopt the kind of behaviours we believe will tip the balance of power in our favour, employing the bullyboy tactics of patriarchy against each other. Projecting our pain is less painful than admitting to its cause. But our projection becomes protection from the truth. We’ve become so engrossed in the business of self-defence that we imagine attack where there is none .

That’s why women shun the feminists who make it difficult for them to maintain the status quo. None of us wants to be the deserter since that’s what it feels like if we reject the status quo. Desertion . But we don’t take this to mean that feminists are right and all other women are wrong. Instead we take it as a sign to help a sister out since all of us need all the help we can get. This shit runs deep . Our mothers taught us. Their mothers taught them. Generations of women have taught each other the rules of engagement.

We can become another link in the chain or we can break it.

Being coached by our own sex leads to the inner conflict that thwarts us. So let’s use the momentum of #metoo to expose and challenge everything we’ve been raised to ignore, like our complicity in this abuse – not just at the hands of men, but women’s too.

We’re calling on men to fix their part, so let’s fix ours.

Our advantage comes with celebrating our femininity, not as something fragile and prone to non-consensual probing, but something multi-dimensional, fierce and worthy of an equal footing. We can define our own standards of equality among women first and foremost.

No woman is an island.

If we want men to relate to our strength, we relate to it in each other. If we want men to respect our womanhood, we must respect each other’s. We can honour every woman however she shows up in the world. We can define our own standards of beauty since femininity comes in all shapes and sizes and colours.

And this is why feminism calls for a shift in consciousness.

The shift from blame to responsibility where women hold each other (and themselves) accountable for actions that defy or deny their freedoms… #metoo has demonstrated how effectively we can hold space for each other’s pain, so now let’s hold space for each other, full stop. We can cultivate different frames of reference for relating to, and relying on, each other. We can cultivate trust and loyalty and acceptance. We can be comparison free. We can upgrade our relationships by upgrading our understanding and appreciation of womanhood beyond its patriarchal image.

You are every woman inside one woman and freedom belongs to all of us .

If we fully express ourselves, and support other women in their own expression, then we reject this binary bullshit that puts us in a box below men. We are the threads weaving a new tapestry without Weinstein. We are the women who give a f**k about every woman’s freedom. Let that be our culture.


By Jo Murphy 22 Oct, 2017
Google will tell you a woman wants a man. Mr Right, to be exact, on bended knee. She cannot know her life or herself without him. A woman, this suggests, is not an autonomous being able to go it alone.

She wants commitment.

Repeat the search, however, swapping ‘women’ for ‘everyone’ and we’re told something different. We all want to be happy . Of course we do, but happiness is just so intangible, isn’t it? It’s such a personal thing.

I believe happiness is founded in freedom.

By that I mean the freedom to be who we want, to do what we want, however, whenever and with whomever we want, unafraid of the backlash, unencumbered by fabricated limitations of gender, race or class (you know, like white men have been doing since forever).

In case you hadn’t guessed, Mr Right can’t deliver on this singlehandedly.

You have to set things in motion yourself, nevermind the toxic dating advice that tells us 10 ways to please a man because anything is better than being alone. I really want to believe that we’ve evolved beyond this, yet still I see us chasing after fantasies concocted by someone else on our behalf, as if we’re unable to think for ourselves. But think we must. It’s up to us to decide what we really want and whether we’re truly committed to going after it.

You have to commit to your own freedom, your own happiness.

Nobody else is going to do it for you. And nobody is going to sweep you off your feet but you. I could talk here about social conditioning, how we’ve been bred over the centuries to expect a man to make the first move. I could focus on how fine the line is between sexual harassment and ‘harmless’ flirtation...

But instead I want to emphasise this: when we put the onus on men to ride in on their white stallions and rescue us from the perverts and patriarchs, we might as well kiss any hope of freedom or happiness goodbye.

We have to rescue ourselves.

More than that, we have to do what we can to create a world from which we no longer need rescuing. It’s a tall order, I know. That’s why we start with the parts we can reach. We start with ourselves and address the role we’re playing in all of this.

Pointing the finger of blame doesn’t always serve us. In fact, it astonishes me how often I’m blamed for blaming men for all that’s wrong in the world, thereby making the place untenable for them (sigh). Yes, naming and shaming those raping our bodies raises awareness of the severity of the situation, but a more powerful way to bring about change is by empowering ourselves.

If women don’t give a f**k about their own freedom, no one will.

We begin by cracking patriarchal codes from the inside out. Which means fessing up to our own internalised sexism , since patriarchy isn’t just some pussy-grabbing president, it’s system of values and beliefs that has taken root in our collective psyche.

Our social and cultural infrastructures favour the powerful and the privileged, which means we’re all vying to get our mitts on a piece of that power and privilege in whatever small way we can. Sometimes that means pledging allegiance to those who hold the majority share.

Obedience becomes our sanctuary.

It keeps the target off our backs if we seem less important in order to allow someone else to feel more important. Mr Right, for example. We actually choose to disempower ourselves out of habit . Which is why waiting for that white knight to bestow us with his approval is indicative of the kind of thinking that engenders everything from the pay gap to female genital mutilation.

A patriarchal mindset pitches all things masculine (action, ambition) above all things feminine (intuition, emotion). Think of them as the two hemispheres of the brain. The left side (masculine) solves problems. But the right side (feminine) could create a world without problems .

She may be oppressed, but she is most certainly not obsolete.

The goal here is to amplify the feminine without muting the masculine, to activate her without deactivating him. One without the other falls short, as illustrated by the many problems we now face. But we’ve no hope of healing all this hatred unless we begin with some radical self -healing. And that comes through radical self-knowledge.

We enter into relationship with ourselves.

Why not get to know you ? What makes you happy and why, what makes you angry and why. Put down the media trash and pick up your own ideas. Find out what you’re really good at and do more of it.

Discover what you really want and go after it.

Date yourself, even if you’re ‘with’ someone else. And, if you are, use the relationship as a mirror rather than a mechanism for self-deflection. Don’t hang your hat of passivity on Mr Right. Find out if you want to commit to him rather than chasing commitment from him.

You may be surprised by what you unearth, like an adversity to commitment for example, which I’m very familiar with. It took me a while, but I finally realised how much I’ve struggled to commit to anything or anyone over the years. I’ve rejected whole chapters of my life because I believed they denied me what I wanted the most.

Freedom.

I turned my back on London after ‘committing’ to it for 18 years. I flitted here and there, exploring relationships with exotic men in equally exotic locations. I pursued a life on the road with passion, but I was chasing a freedom fantasy for all the wrong reasons, seeking the shock factor, rebelling against a system of conformity from the outside in . I was playing at it, not committing to it.

I always had one eye on the exit. My life had become one big get-out clause.

Whenever I entered into a relationship or contract, I felt like I lost myself. I seemed to naturally assume a role of subservience, of the minion to the manager, of the student to the teacher, of the woman to the man. I had come to associate commitment with entrapment, disempowerment, hence the dramatic nature of my rebellion.

But here’s the catch.

I’d chosen subservience
. I’d chosen to seem less important so that someone else could feel more important, even if they hadn’t asked me to .

Freedom had been available to me all along. It was simply a choice.

I’d been basing my future potential on past performance, assuming that what had always been is what would always be. No matter how much I chased the fantasy, so ingrained in me was this idea of obedience that on a subconscious level I didn’t believe I could really be free.

Commitment issues, you see, aren’t always the by-products of play away egos. They can stem from a deep lack of self-belief, a lack of self-worth. If we commit to something, we fear we will eventually lose it. Yes, we may get it at first, but there’s no guarantee that it’s a keeper.

There’s a deep sense that we’re not allowed to keep it.

The precariousness of this situation spins us into a panic. If we become dependent on someone other than ourselves , something outside of us, to make us happy, what happens when they leave? If we commit to Mr Right over and above committing to ourselves, what or who is left when he’s gone? Worse still, what if we blame ourselves for his departure?

If, fundamentally, we don’t believe we’re deserving of the things we desire, we get caught in the dreaded confirmation bias loop, tripping over evidence of what we believe to be true: that we’re not worthy . So, while we think we’re looking for someone to prove our worth, we just keep hooking up with those who show us the opposite. It's a battlefield

It’s the kind of relationship rot that patriarchy both creates and perpetrates.

But here’s the good news. It’s all role-play and we don’t have to accept the part. It’s all wiring that can be re-wired. Our internal patriarchs have thus far ensured that we remain strangers to both each other and ourselves. You can change that. And you can begin by dating yourself (safe in the knowledge that you won’t walk out or cheat, I hope).

I’ve been going steady with me for a while now. Checking in with my happiness levels in every situation. It sounds batshit, I’ll give you that, but this commitment to myself has been one of the most radical steps I’ve ever taken towards freedom.

It means asking over and over, is this acceptable, is this making me happy, what do I want instead? I may not always act on the answers, but at least I asked the questions rather than waiting for someone else to do so. More than that, this inner dialogue has become a constant source of love and reassurance.

If I want to become the revolutionary I desire to be, I first have to deal with the BS on the inside. That’s where the revolution begins.

We can march. We can say “me too”. We can sign all of the petitions. We can do these vastly important things since they’re the threads that will weave a new tapestry. But these threads will be weak and snap unless they’re spun from a place of conviction and integrity .

It’s no good dipping a toe in the waters of women’s lib before retreating into the arms of our inner patriarchs. If, on a subconscious level, we still don’t feel deserving of equality, we’ll never get it. So we have to give it to ourselves.

We have to choose freedom, to see ourselves as equals.

Our history of oppression is no small matter. But if we hold too fast to the past, believing it impossible to create something different, we’ll just get more of the same. We'll relinquish our responsibility to become a part of the solution. But if we acknowledge that the problem on the inside creates a problem on the outside, freedom is there for the taking.

These are unprecedented times…

To think I got all this from a random Google search on a Tuesday afternoon. And a lifetime of commitment issues. And a lifelong hunt for freedom. But it reminded me that we have a choice every day, in every moment. Commit to ourselves or commit to someone else’s idea of who we should be. It’s a no-brainer, surely?

So, here comes the irony.

Google isn’t wrong. Women do want commitment. But we can lose the dude on bended knee (unless Mr Right is right on).

Women want commitment from women.

When we turn towards ourselves, we turn towards all of us. So when I say I give a f**k about my freedom, what I really mean is that I care deeply, passionately, unwaveringly about yours too. This is my commitment. It’s what I want the most.

This is me on bended knee…


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